Objective sacraments

From the Revd Richard Chown

I was intrigued by the Bishop of Lincoln’s article in August; he raises a number of interesting points and states, ‘…unless sacraments are objectified and are thereby elevated to a status reserved for God alone…’ which I take to indicate that he believes in nominalism and receptionism (I may be doing him an injustice and trust he will clarify his stance if that is so).

The reason for my strong reaction is that it was the objectivity of God in Christ and Christ in his Sacrament that were cardinal points of my conversion; not what I thought about them but what they showed me of ‘God with us.’ My assurance is that I can believe in them because of what Jesus is; ‘the assurance that God is God’ and works his sovereign will.

The Bishop does not appear to believe that they partake of the reality of God, i.e. they are not worthy of his objectivity. It is true that they speak to us via our understanding, which may well be less than worthy, but in themselves they are an effective and sure means of grace and therefore share that objectivity which is in God.

Dick Chown

3 Coniston Court, Weybridge

Fracturing the body

From Prebendary David Wills

Does the Bishop of Lincoln seriously think that some of us believe in the kind of God he suggests? God is not bound by his sacraments, though we are to an extent. I have always assumed that, within their particular ecclesial communities, non-episcopal churches exercise effective ministries of word and sacrament. The same would apply with female ministers in the Anglican Church.

The problem, however, is that it makes the area within which this applies more and more ‘local’. We are concerned with the sacraments of the Universal Church, and do not want them to become more local than they already are because of the fractured state of the Body of Christ.

David Wills

Garden Cottage, Penwinnick Road,

St Agnes, Cornwall TR5 0LA

Sacramental ministers

From Mr Stephen Marsden

Readers of New Directions will be grateful for the clarity with which the Bishop of Lincoln has expounded his theological thinking on women bishops.

Given his assertion that ‘the only assurance which matters is the assurance that God is God,’ can we take it that he would, for the sake of example, be happy, in his final hours, to be ministered to sacramentally by a lay person from, say, the Diocese of Sydney? And, if not, why not?

Stephen Marsden

c/o L’Escoundoundo, Bormes les Mimosas 83230, France

Cross Muslims

From Fr Brian Williams

I have recently returned from walking part of St Cuthbert’s Way in Northumberland, using one of the new OS Explorer maps. Have I been slow to notice the new description of the symbols used? Have others noticed that the round shape surmounted by a cross no longer represents a church, but ‘a place of worship with a spire, minaret or dome’?

I would be tempted to contact Ordinance Survey to point out the inappropriateness of using a cross as a symbol for a mosque, were it not for the possibility of that august body replacing the cross with the crescent in the interest of inclusivity.

Brian Williams

Sneyd Vicarage, Hamil Road,

Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 1AP


From Mr R.J. Herd

When people talk about the ordination of women to the priesthood or the episcopate there is little mention of anthropology. There seems to be little account taken of the work showing the relationships between men and women by anthropologists since Margaret Mead and before.

There is something which I call ‘the choirboy syndrome’. Girls join a previously all-boys choir: gradually all the boys leave and it becomes an all-girls choir. It never seems to happen the other way round.

The number of women being ordained is increasing and I foresee that there will soon be more female clergy than male. Counting in the fact that congregations are predominately female, one can well see men, lay and clerical, drifting away from the church as it becomes a largely female organization. We can see from history that this can have a profound effect on the nature of the organization.

I believe many women, as well as men, understand this and that is why there are so many women in organizations like Forward in Faith.

R.J. Herd

1573B Warwick Road, Knowle, Solihull B93 9LF